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"Rules for Dating My Daughter" Memes Reality Check

Mom of 2, Rosa has worked with non-profits to provide educational and health programs for local children, and improve the local workforce.

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Someone recently told me that this is the Year of the Offense. Of course someone says that every year. So many people get offended by every little thing going on around them, which is of course amplified by the media highlighting the most ridiculous and inane things to stir the pot.

Now, there's a lot of things we should be upset by. Old social norms need to be change. We need to start doing better as a society. In this post, I'm discussing the "Dating my Daughter" memes which are making people upset - but for all the wrong reasons.

rules-for-dating-my-daughter-memes-reality-check

For some reason, folks are missing the point that these memes are jokes; exaggerated caricatures of fathers wanting to protect their teenage daughters who are (generally speaking) wrapped up in romantic ideals and fairy-tale notions.

That my father greeted a young man at the door with a shot gun in hand was just poor timing and reinforcement that you should always call ahead before showing up at someone's house ...

The Offended

I find it interesting that the people who claim to be offended aren't upset that there's still the need to protect our daughters from predatory young men. They aren't angry that not everyone raises their boys to treat females with respect or gain willing consent. Nope. They're saying these memes demean women.

What? Why are folk victimizing the daughters? That's like saying "She got raped" instead of "He raped her".

One daddy blogger went so far as to state these memes (and presumably the archaic tradition of the Father's Show of Dominance) show that men don't trust their daughters, have no confidence in them, and think their daughters are "weak and feeble creatures" (that's a direct quote). From his comments about over-bearing fathers bullying, intimidating future friends and dates, and his choice to post this topic under the category of "bad parenting", it's obvious that he's missed the point of these memes entirely:

Why father's feel the need to "put the fear of God" into their daughters dating partners in the first place.

For that daddy blogger and any others who struggle with this topic, here are some points to consider:

Reality Check #1

When my Dad screened potential dates, met them at the door, spoke to them on the phone, and/or "put the fear of God" in them, I never felt like he didn't trust me. Know why? Because, my behaviour wasn't what he was worried about.

Dad trusted me to do the right thing, and then he empowered me to be able to make good choices by teaching me what to say, what options I had in certain situations, and if all else failed, where to strike if I needed to. He did that so I would never feel or be defenseless just because I was on my own.

Nor did I feel "owned" or like property by the fact that his primal instincts were to protect his offspring.

Reality Check #2

At no time did Dad's (over)protective behaviour give the impression or make me feel like I was a helpless little thing that would collapse in a fit of vapours in a crunch. Instead, I felt important, precious, and worth protecting.

Safe.

I also felt confident Dad had my back if things ever went sideways. I could count on him to step up if I got into a situation I couldn't handle on my own as an inexperienced teenager.

rules-for-dating-my-daughter-memes-reality-check

Reality Check #3

My old-world Italian father was pretty blunt about men and dating, but he didn't teach me to "fear" men by being (over)protective. You know who did? Men (and boys) who didn't respect me; mentally, emotionally, or physically.

Those @ssholes really drove home everything Dad was trying to tell me about why he was so worried and why he felt the need to teach me how to slam a fist into a man's throat.

You know why fathers do and say these things? It's not that they don't trust their daughters or think they're "weak and feeble creatures".

The Point

You know why fathers do and say these things? It's not that they don't trust their daughters or think they're "weak and feeble creatures". It's called experience.

Fathers act in a way to protect their daughters in dating situations, because they're men and they've "been there". They know how guys in general think and behave behind closed doors.

They know firsthand how too many males think and behave when behind closed doors. They know what is said when they think it's safe to speak without social inhibition.

Instead of getting bent out of shape about a protective parent (or the stereotype portrayal of), people should spend that energy on raising awareness about consent and teaching their male children to treat females with respect and dignity.

To paraphrase Dad:

Not all parents raise their kids to know and do what's right. Even those kids who are raised properly make mistakes. It's a parent's job to make sure everyone is on the same page - that there's a mutual understanding and respect. And, if there's a lapse in respect, there is a knowledge that there will be consequences - obviously not Liam Neeson style, but real solid consequences to their actions.

Of course, a calm, non-threatening, and mutually respectful conversation about exceptions is the superior option.We shouldn't threaten others into good behaviour - obviously. If the daddy blogger is at this place as a parent when his daughter is dating and her date actually accepts the boundaries of consent without fear tactics, I'm thrilled!

It's the ideal goal. It's what these memes are bringing to light - the need to shift gears: Raise our young men to treat women with the respect and dignity they'd like to receive ... Communicate without aggressive undertones ... Building trust with the people you're starting to build a relationship without feeling offended, mistrusted, or threatened.

These are good things. These are the changes we're working on. Being offended by memes and turning them into messages of victimization detracts from where our attention needs to be.

Bottom Line

Humans have a tendency to make jokes about things we want to change. Our laughter robs it of its power. It bonds us and emboldens us to make changes far more than righteous outcries and finger wagging.

Despite the "caveman instinct" to protect our young, these memes, and the "tough-guy" mentality that some people are sneering at, isn't about feminism, sexism, lack of trust in our children, or "bad parenting". It's about teaching our daughters (and their potential suitors) that:

Even when you're by yourself, you're never on your own.

Originally Published Nov 13, 2015

© 2021 Rosa Marchisella

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